This section is from the book "Robbery Under Arms; A Story Of Life And Adventure In The Bush And In The Australian Goldfields", by Rolf Boldrewood. Also available from Amazon: Robbery under Arms; a story of life and adventure in the bush and in the Australian goldfields.
That might happen at any time on one of the spurs of Nulla Mountain; and the finding out of the track down to the Hollow by some one of the dozens of rambling, shooting, fishing diggers would be as certain to happen as the sun to rise.
Well, the country had changed, and we were bound to change with it. We couldn't stop boxed up in the Hollow day after day, and month after month, shooting and horse-breaking, doing nothing and earning nothing.
If we went outside there were ten times more men looking out for us than ever, ten times more chance of our being tracked or run down than ever. That we knew from the newspapers. How did we see them? Oh, the old way. We sent out our scout, Warrigal, and he got our letters and papers too, from a 'sure hand', as Starlight said the old people in the English wars used to say.
The papers were something to see. First he brought us in a handbill that was posted in Bargo, like this: --
FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.
The above reward will be paid to any one giving information as to the whereabouts of Richard Marston, James Marston, and a man whose name is unknown, but who can be identified chiefly by the appellation of Starlight.
'Pleasing way of drawing attention to a gentleman's private residence,' says Starlight, smiling first and looking rather grim afterwards. 'Never mind, boys, they'll increase that reward yet, by Jove! It will have to be a thousand a piece if they don't look a little sharper.'
We laughed, and dad growled out --
'Don't seem to have the pluck, any on ye, to tackle a big touch again. I expect they'll send a summons for us next, and get old Bill Barkis, the bailiff at Bargo, to serve it.'
'Come, come, governor,' says Starlight, 'none of that. We've got quite enough devil in us yet, without your stirring him up. You must give us time, you know. Let's see what this paper says. "Turon Star"! What a godsend to it!
'STARLIGHT AND THE MARSTONS AGAIN.
'The announcement will strike our readers, if not with the most profound astonishment, certainly with considerable surprise, that these celebrated desperadoes, for whose apprehension such large sums have been offered, for whom the police in all the colonies have made such unremitting search, should have been discovered in our midst. Yet such is the case. On this very morning, from information received, our respected and efficient Inspector of Police, Sir Ferdinand Morringer, proceeded soon after midnight to the camp of Messrs. Clifford and Hastings. He had every reason to believe that he would have had no difficulty in arresting the famous Starlight, who, under the cognomen of the Honourable Frank Haughton, has been for months a partner in this claim. The shareholders were popularly known as "the three Honourables", it being rumoured that both Mr. Clifford and Mr. Hastings were entitled to that prefix, if not to a more exalted one.
'With characteristic celerity, however, the famous outlaw had shortly before quitted the place, having received warning and been provided with a fast horse by his singular retainer, Warrigal, a half-caste native of the colony, who is said to be devotedly attached to him, and who has been seen from time to time on the Turon.
'Of the Marston brothers, the elder one, Richard, would seem to have been similarly apprised, but James Marston was arrested in his cottage in Specimen Gully. Having been lately married, he was apparently unwilling to leave his home, and lingered too long for prudence.
'While rejoicing, as must all good citizens, at the discovery of evil-doers and the capture of one member of a band of notorious criminals, we must state in fairness and candour that their conduct has been, while on the field as miners, free from reproach in every way. For James Marston, who was married but a short while since to a Melbourne young lady of high personal attractions and the most winning amiability, great sympathy has been expressed by all classes.
So much for the "Star". Everybody is sorry for you, old man,' he says to Jim. 'I shouldn't wonder if they'd make you a beak if you'd stayed there long enough. I'm afraid Dick's dropping the policeman won't add to our popularity, though.'
'He's all right,' I said. 'Hurrah! look here. I'm glad I didn't finish the poor beggar. Listen to this, from the "Turon Banner": --
'The good old days have apparently not passed away for ever, when mail robberies and hand-to-hand conflicts with armed robbers were matters of weekly occurrence. The comparative lull observable in such exciting occurrences of late has been proved to be but the ominous hush of the elements that precedes the tempest. Within the last few days the mining community has been startled by the discovery of the notorious gang of bush-rangers, Starlight and the Marstons, domiciled in the very heart of the diggings, attired as ordinary miners, and -- for their own purposes possibly -- leading the laborious lives proper to the avocation. They have been fairly successful, and as miners, it is said, have shown themselves to be manly and fair-dealing men. We are not among those who care to judge their fellow-men harshly. It may be that they had resolved to forsake the criminal practices which had rendered them so unhappily celebrated. James Marston had recently married a young person of most respectable family and prepossessing appearance. As far as may be inferred from this step and his subsequent conduct, he had cut loose from his former habitudes. He, with his brother, Richard Marston, worked an adjoining claim to the Arizona Sluicing Company, with the respected shareholders of which they were on terms of intimacy. The well-known Starlight, as Mr. Frank Haughton, became partner and tent-mate with the Hon. Mr. Clifford and Mr. Hastings, an aristocratic society in which the manners and bearing of this extraordinary man permitted him to mingle without suspicion of detection.
'Suddenly information was furnished to the police respecting all three men. We are not at present aware of the source from which the clue was obtained. Suffice it to say that Sir Ferdinand Morringer promptly arranged for the simultaneous action of three parties of police with the hope of capturing all three outlaws. But in two cases the birds were flown. Starlight's "ame damnee", a half-caste named Warrigal, had been observed on the field the day before. By him he was doubtless furnished with a warning, and the horse upon which he left his abode shortly before the arrival of Sir Ferdinand. The elder Marston had also eluded the police. But James Marston, hindered possibly by domestic ties, was captured at his cottage at Specimen Gully. For him sympathy has been universally expressed. He is regarded rather as a victim than as an active agent in the many criminal offences chargeable to the account of Starlight's gang.
'Since writing the above we have been informed that trooper Walsh, who with another constable was escorting James Marston to Bargo Gaol, has been brought in badly wounded. The other trooper reports that he was shot down and the party attacked by persons concealed in the thick timber near Wild Horse Creek, at the edge of Bargo Brush. In the confusion that ensued the prisoner escaped. It was at first thought that Walsh was fatally injured, but our latest report gives good hope of his recovery.
'We shall be agreeably surprised if this be the end and not the commencement of a series of darker tragedies.'